Martin Robinson


Trivium 21st Century - Martin Robinson

Trivium 21st Century

Crown House Publishing

Education policy and practice is a battleground between sworn enemies. Traditionalists argue for the importance of a privileged type of hard knowledge and deride soft skills. Progressives deride learning about great works of the past; preferring 21stC skills like critical thinking, and teamwork.

Whilst looking for a school for his daughter, the author became frustrated by schools' inability to value knowledge, as well as creativity, foster discipline alongside free-thinking, and value citizenship alongside independent learning. Drawing from his work as a creative teacher Robinson finds inspiration in the Arts and the need to nurture learners with the ability to deal with the uncertainties of our age.

From Ancient Greece to the present day, this book explores whether a contemporary trivium (Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric) can unite progressive and traditionalist institutions, teachers, politicians and parents in the common pursuit of providing a great education for our children in the 21st Century.
Now available for Order on Amazon.

Some reviews

"Part reflective autobiography, part educational manifesto, The Trivium in the 21st Century is both a richly erudite and engagingly relevant exploration of the purposes and philosophies underlying the enterprise of education. From Ancient Greece through to contemporary controversy, Robinson draws resonantly on his experience as a student and a teacher to demonstrate that the trivium , the triple way , of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, still lies at the heart of a good education , albeit in new forms. With refreshing realism, he recognises that teachers in their work in the classroom often transcend many of the political storms about education. Citing almost every contemporary protagonist from our own era, he advances an approach which he describes as progressive traditionalism . The Trivium in the 21st Century is essential reading for all educators and observers of the seemingly endless public debate about education who wish to go beyond simplistic polarities and find a way to integrate and relate in a historical context seemingly contradictory approaches."
Ian Bauckham Head Teacher and President, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) 2013-14
Martin Robinson sets out on a quest to discover the kind of education he wishes for his daughter and we all learn a great deal in the process. I love his writing: wise, well informed, provocative, thinking-out-loud. Robinson engages his reader from first to last. A terrific feat. --
Melissa Benn, writer and author of School Wars: The Battle for Britain's Education
This is a charming book which is fun to read; it is contemplative and self-reflective and at the same time it is well-researched, informative and genuinely scholarly. What the book does very well is to unpick the tensions between educationalist progressives and traditionalists and it attempts to identify differences but also importantly to seek common ground. Indeed it is a historical tour de force examining the origins and development of the liberal arts from the early Greeks through Shakespearean times to the present day. What makes the book so readable is that it is a journey of self-reflection on what it means to be educated from the point of view of the author as a schoolboy, a teacher and then a parent seeking an appropriate school for his daughter.
The early part of the book looks at his own schooling and frustrations that the author experiences. Learning appears to be chaotic and many pupils are apparently left to fail by not being equipped with the skills necessary to succeed at school. The book then traces his later employment and his experiences as a schoolteacher and how he changed the way he taught to make learning more meaningful and authentic for his pupils. His journey is one of becoming a teacher who adopts innovative approaches to teaching; teaching for meaning, values and deep learning. The argument of the book is for a Trivium of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. The three elements of the trivium would be developed simultaneously, and once mastered it was expected that a student would have acquired the knowledge, the reasoning skills and the ability to communicate well that would stand them in good stead for a good life.
What Robinson is asking for is the building blocks for thriving at school, the underpinning principles of learning that many teachers assume that pupils already possess but which many do not. I am not convinced that this book will unite traditionalists and progressives in a mutual quest of school improvement, but for the open minded reader there is much to learn.
I agree with Robinson that students acquiring a sound blend of knowledge, questioning expertise, and communication skills (i.e. the trivium) is the basis of a great education. --
Dr. Jacek Brant, Head of Curriculum, Pedagogy & Assessment (CPA), Senior Lecturer in Business Education, Institute of Education, University of London
Martin Robinson embarks on a highly engaging personal quest to discover what matters in education. By drawing not just on lessons and frustrations from his extensive experience as an educator, but also on the hopes and anxieties which he feels as a new parent, he transcends the often stale trenchlines of many arguments about education between 'traditionalists' and 'progressives', recognising that rival important insights about the foundations of learning and knowledge need not be polar opposites. Robinson's own synthesis offers an ambitious vision of how to pursue an educational ideal as a practical project. Anybody interested in education, citizenship or how we want our children to learn would find this a thought-provoking read.
Sunder Katwala director of British Future, the independent think-tank
In schools today, a focus on contemporary relevance too often trumps educational depth. Martin Robinson makes a compelling case that turning instead to the tradition of the liberal arts can open the minds of a new generation.
Marc Sidwell co-author of The School of Freedom Managing Editor City A.M.


Martin wrote the Feature piece for the TES 'Utter Brilliance' on the theme of Rhetoric in Schools that appeared in the Friday 4th July 2014 Edition, currently not available online.

Teaching Set Free TES January 9th 2015

Tradition Need Not Be the Enemy of Progress

Teacher Talk


A Trivial Debate About Education’ a piece for The Idler no. 47 ‘Cultivate Yourself’.

Student Voice

By Martin Robinson

A Tragi-Comic, State of the Nation’s Education play set in a real ‘bog standard’ comprehensive school in the present day.

Mr Arnold came into teaching to make a difference, but the main difference now is that he is no longer trusted. The exam system, the government, Ofsted, the curriculum, the head teacher, the governors, his wife and the school kids seem to have all abandoned him. He wants to educate but all that is wanted is results, results achieved at any cost. Surrounded by technology whether it is the Whiteboard, the Tannoy, the Mobile Phone & iPad, Mr Arnold, it transpires, only uses technology preparing for his ‘special’ ‘A’ level class.

It is early Spring Term & Mr Arnold is under pressure, as the school believes a ‘no-notice’ Ofsted inspection is on the cards. He needs to prove his worth so decides to hold a gifted & talented class after school. He only has one gifted & talented student so; in order to save time (& his marriage) he holds the class at the same time as a detention, with dire consequences.

Contact Martin’s Agent for further details: Colin Watkeys email: